South Asian Muslims and saying “Good Bye”

June 14, 2006 at 4:00 am (Arabic, Islam, Islamism, Languages, Persian, South Asia)

Who would have ever thought that saying “Good bye!” could have political, theological, religious, spiritual, or sectarian implications? But this is so particularly among South Asian Muslims (Muslims from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh) and this has to do with the variety of Muslim communities found throughout the region.

In Urdu, the common salutation upon departure is “Khudaa haafiz” (usually shortened to “khudaafiz”) which means “God is the guardian” with the connotation of “May God protect you.” A little more formal version would be “Khudaa nigehbaan” (although I have only heard this on television as news anchors would bid their audience adieu). Although “haafiz” in Urdu comes from Arabic (“HaafiZ” meaning guardian, custodian), “khudaa” (“God”) comes from Persian. (Persians would pronounce the same salutation as “khodaa haafez”.) When I was younger, my maternal grandfather (a non-militant Wahhabi-ish Muslim) told us that we should never say “Khudaa haafiz” because “khudaa” is a Persian word and cannot accurately refer to God. Instead, we should say “Allaah haafiz”. Since that day, even though he passed away, we all in my immediate family use that salutation. (I’ve noticed one interesting thing: if I say “Allaah haafiz” after someone said “Khudaa haafiz” to me, chances are high that the person will say “Allah haafiz” back to me, even though they already said a salutation.)

This very same debate is made to be a significant issue by certain Islamists, who insist that people say “Allaah haafiz” instead of “Khudaa haafiz” and that this rule be propagated. To some, it almost seems that if someone, after hearing this, continues to use “Khudaa haafiz”, he is indicating some sort of rebelliousness against Islam or God. Which, to a degree, is understandable. The Qur’an says (2:256) (Arabic and translation from Drs. Muhammad Taq-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, The Noble Qur’an. Madinah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Complex For The Printing Of The Holy Qur’an, 1419 AH.

“tabayyana-r-rushdu mina-l-ghayy”

“the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path”

And following the traditional interpretation of this verse, if the right and the wrong have been made evident, then he who does wrong has consciously chosen wrong, and he who has consciously chosen wrong is consciously rebelling against God. He chooses wrong to rebel against God.

But, of course, this ignores the fact that most Arabs use the parting salutation of “maa’a salaamah” (“with peace”), that many Muslims (especially Islamists) use the parting salutation of “fee imaani-llaah” (“in the trust” of God or “with trust in God”), and that some Muslims even use the traditional greeting (“as-salaamu ‘alaykum” (“peace be upon you”) with the response “wa ‘alaykum as-salaam” (“and upon you be peace”)) as a parting salutation as well. And, of course, people debate which of all of these is what a Muslim should use. A lot can be said about a person by how he departs.

Makes speaking English seem quite the preferrable medium, no?

innaa naHnu-l-a’lam.



  1. Christopher Taylor said,

    Well, Goodbye came originally from God Be With You, shortened to God By Ye, to Goodbye. So we’re not all that different, overall. So far no PC crusader has noticed this etymological fact like they did with BC and AD.

  2. Muslihoon said,

    Good point, Christopher! I did not know that. Thanks!

  3. max said,

    One more indication of the Arabization of “ISLAM” , Please!!! Allah Hafez!! So what!!! if I call GOD “Allah” I will be more blessed than say if I refer God as Khooda. My personal preference is GOD and I hardly care about Arabic/Arabs etc etc.. Islam is soo diluted that unfortunately we cannot even see what the difference is between the religion and what is Arabism!!!

  4. Maryam said,

    oh, yeah, please leave our great language ,Persian, alone and stick to animal language ,Arabic,
    We will be glad less muslims be interested in great persian culture.
    we are much better than that and don’t want to lower ourselves to be in interest of brainless muslims

  5. kichiro said,

    i got smthng frm here. this is very good. learntsmthng muslims, i take it seriously. tq! ‘ may peace be upon you “

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